By: Vince Pecoraro

 

Craft brewers have always been on the cutting edge of green technology: the Brooklyn Brewery was the first building in New York City to be 100% wind powered and Sierra Nevada was named Green Business of the Year by the EPA in 2010.

The industry is dominated by businesses endorsing environmentally friendly practices: reducing water usage, packaging with recycled materials, and brewing with organic ingredients.

The Alaskan Brewing Company has taken sustainable production to the next level, powering their steam boiler with spent grains, the primary waste product from any brewing operation. They use the waste from an old batch to create the next.

The owners call it “beer-powered beer.”

Breweries usually ship spent grain out to local farms to be used as cattle feed, but there were only 37 farms in southeast Alaska and 680 in the whole state as of 2011. The company had no choice but to ship all of their spent grain to the west coast, an expensive endeavor as almost all shipments to and from the state are by air or sea.

The brewery’s specially designed steam boiler, which was installed in 2012 and cost $1.8 million, has reduced their fuel consumption by over 60%.

Their mission is to produce a zero-net negative effect, reclaiming and reusing as much waste and emissions as they produce.

The state-of-the-art system was over two decades in the making. The brewery installed a grain dryer designed to prepare the spent grain for shipment in 1995 and was the first to install a mash filter press, which helps draw moisture from the spent grain.

They estimated that the boiler has eliminated their use of fuel oil in the grain drying process and displaces more than half of the fuel needed to create steam; between all of their efforts, the brewery expects to save nearly 1.5 million gallons of oil over the next ten years.